Clariant inaugurates Germany cellulose ethanol pilot plant

20 July 2012 13:05  [Source: ICIS news]

Clariant has inaugurated a new bioethanol demonstration plant in the Bavarian town of Straubing, GermanyLONDON (ICIS)--Clariant has inaugurated a new cellulose ethanol pilot plant in the Bavarian town of Straubing, Germany, the Swiss specialty chemicals company said on Friday.

The plant – the biggest of its kind in Germany – will produce around 1,000 tonnes/year of cellulose ethanol, a second-generation biofuel, using around 4,500 tonnes/year of locally sourced agricultural waste as a feedstock.

The plant represents an investment of around €28m ($35m).

Clariant CEO Hariolf Kottmann said: "The inauguration of the new plant marks an important milestone in the production of a climate-friendly biofuel that can also be used as a raw material for the chemical industry."

Kottmann also appealed to politicians and industrialists to draw lessons from the failed start-up of biofuel E10 – a gasoline blend containing up to 10% bioethanol introduced last year by German fuel producers, which was widely seen as unsuccessful because of customer fears of ethanol-related engine damage – and called for stable and reliable framework conditions and an extension of the tax exemption status for second-generation biofuels beyond 2015.

“Only when society recognises the environmental benefits of climate-friendly biofuels can second-generation bioethanol be successful,” he said.

Clariant said studies show Germany potentially has around 22m tonnes of straw that could be used for energy production without compromising essential soil regeneration, which would be sufficient to cover around 25% of Germany’s current gasoline requirements.

In June, the company said the pilot plant represents the interim stage necessary prior to erecting production plants with annual capacities of 50,000–150,000 tonnes of ethanol.

German speciality chemicals firm Sud-Chemie, which was bought by Clariant, intends to license out this technology for construction of the first production plants in 2013/2014.

Bioethanol consists of ethanol obtained from plant-based raw materials and can be either blended with fuel for spark-ignition engines or used as pure ethanol. Most of the bioethanol consumed today comprises first-generation bioethanol, which has failed to gain widespread acceptance, its competition for land with food and feed resources being the main point of contention.

However, Clariant has said cellulose ethanol – made from material containing lignocellulose, mainly found in agricultural residue such as cereal straw or corn stover and bagasse obtained from sugar cane – can be an alternative, as the use of non-edible materials avoids competition with food and feed resources.

($1 = €0.81)

By: Franco Capaldo
+44 (0)20 8652 3214

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